Time is Finally Up for Woody Allen
Hollywood reckons with the filmmaker's crimes and misdemeanors
SHOULD CALL ME BY YOUR NAME RECEIVE THE BEFORE SUNRISE TREATMENT?
hat’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?” Allen’s adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow asked in an open letter published in the New York Times in 2014.
Before I could so much as take the time to blurt out Manhattan Murder Mystery, Farrow bluntly told me to keep in mind that, when she was 7 years old, Allen sexually assaulted her in her childhood home’s attic.
The letter goes on to explicitly detail the various ways in which Allen tormented Farrow as a little girl, as well the emotional effects being a survivor of sexual assault had on her in the years following. For Farrow, the incident was worsened by the reality that the media largely ignored or refused to seriously address her claims.
They were made, after all, in the middle of the media frenzy caused by 57-year-old Allen’s leaving his then-partner, Mia Farrow, for the barely legal Soon-Yi Previn, who was the former’s adoptive daughter. Many, including myself had until around 2014 persuaded themselves that Farrow’s initial claims were extra chunks of tabloid fodder to heighten the rhetoric that Allen was gross.
When I first read Farrow’s letter as a naïve 16-year-old, I regrettably did not respond to her accusations like I should have. Because I had previously consumed Allen’s films hungrily and obsessively, I was willing to personally curtail a woman’s pain for the sake of continuing my own viewing pleasure.
“It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family and I hope they find some sort of resolution and peace,” Cate Blanchett, who was on the promotional circuit for Blue Jasmine said at the time of the letter’s publishing.
In many ways, that was the stance I took too. I took to heart what Farrow had written, but because I was so attached to Allen’s oeuvre, I defended my adoration of his work by dishing the excuse that we shouldn’t let an artist’s personal life influence our consumption — and that what had happened wasn’t any of my business. I stood by that notion in the years following; I last enjoyed an Allen movie in September when I watched the breezy 1995 black comedy Mighty Aphrodite during a family road trip.
But like most people, something in me has shifted in the last few months. In the wake of my frequent writing about the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the myriad sexual misconduct reports that have arisen as an effect, I realized that I was being hypocritical. Here I was, so willing to decry these purported sexual predators, but then I’d turn right around and essentially defend men like Allen and Roman Polanski by continuing to watch and rave about their films.
I certainly don’t feel as though anyone should feel guilty for liking or acclaiming the previous, culturally significant works of artists like Allen and Polanski. I think it’s okay to continue watching classics like Annie Hall or Rosemary’s Baby for the sake of their being so important to the New Hollywood era and cinema history in general. But in doing so, we must also keep sketchy backgrounds in mind and be willing to confront our own sometimes contradicting beliefs. Otherwise, Allen’s continued output does not have a place in a post-Time’s Up Hollywood.
I’ve personally decided that I no longer will support Allen moving forward, no matter if a past work is up for discussion or if something new is in the works. The fact is is that two hours’ worth of escapism is not worth minimizing the decades worth of agony suffered by Farrow, whom I believe but lamentably didn’t fully support until recently.
The industry seems to have taken a similar initiative. A couple days ago, news arrived that Allen’s upcoming film, A Rainy Day in New York, would either be shelved completely or released with little to no promotion. In the previous month or so, actors like Rebecca Hall, Ellen Page, Colin Firth, Timothée Chalamet, and the aforementioned Sorvino have expressed regret for working with the filmmaker, with some even donating their salaries to organizations combating sexual assault.
That it took almost four years for this to happen is astonishing. (It’s understandable, though, given my own previous mindset.) But it’s promising. It signifies that the entertainment industry really and truly will no longer tolerate vile behavior, even if it is just rumored and even if it is speculated to just be a component of an ugly breakup.
In order for the Time’s Up movement to be totally effective, however, we too must act as ethical viewers as best we can. Even if it feels akin (like in my case) to a painful, tear-drenched divorce.
- FEBRUARY 2, 2018
This piece also appeared in The Daily.